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Hurricanes and Trees

Hurricane Pruning and Topping of Trees – Dangerous Myths

‘Hurricane pruning or trimming’ refers to the type of trimming that is often promoted by untrained tree workers who believe that by cleaning out the interior of the tree’s crown wind will more easily pass through, reducing wind stress on the tree and reducing the risk of the tree breaking up or falling over. In fact, this is not born out by the facts. Wind tunnel experiments at the University of Florida confirm that the removal of foliage from the interior increases the likelihood of damage from high winds. Property owners who pay for hurricane pruning are at best throwing their money away, while increasing the likelihood that their tree will become more of a hazard.

‘Topping’ is another myth that persists in our urbanizing landscape. Topping is the indiscriminant removal of whole sections of the upper tree crown without consideration of proper pruning standards. Such cutting often leads to a loss of 50% or more of the trees leaf area, leading to stress and an increased vulnerability to insect and disease problems. Topping also leads to increased rates of decay and weak branch attachments to larger limbs and the trunk exacerbating the hazardous condition of the tree.

Trees growing within our urban parks and backyards are much different from those growing in a natural forest. Trees often develop a form that is more susceptible to breakage when growing in urban environments. As a result, trees need preventive pruning to develop a strong structure. Research and observation, conducted by the University of Florida, has demonstrated that properly pruned trees are more wind resistant.

Pruning is a ‘double – edged sword’ either helping or hindering the development of a strong tree structure. If done properly, by competent and trained professionals, it can reduce the potential of limbs and trunk failure, and prolong the life and health of the tree. If done improperly it can lead to the increase probability of failure, needless cost and actually reduce the life span and health of the tree.

Research at the University of Florida suggests that pruning mature trees should be conducted by reducing the length of limbs with weak attachments to the trunk, while seeking to balance the tree’s crown. Interior branches should not be removed, since this concentrates growth and foliage on the tips of the branches, causing them to break in strong winds.

When undertaking the pruning of your large trees contract with a reputable arborist. For a detailed step by step guide on how to find and hire a reputable arborist to prune your trees properly, visit this University of Florida IFAS website https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/arborist.shtml